The Southern California shipper Leave Me Alone was in a class by herself in Saturday's Test (gr. I) for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs, romping to a front-running victory by 7 3/4 lengths over a quality group of opponents.
Ridden by Kent Desormeaux for trainer Eric Kruljac and owner Mitchell Ranch, the California-bred daughter of Bold Badgett shook off Maddalena at the top of the stretch and rolled to the easiest of victories in 1:22 3/5.
"This was a very easy job for me, all I had to do was keep her between the fences," Desormeaux said.
It was the second time in less than a month that Kruljac, who won his first grade I and his first race at Saratoga, shipped Leave Me Alone east to steal a graded sprint race. She won the Azalea Breeders' Cup (gr. III) on Summit of Speed day by a nose at Calder July 10. The horse she beat that day, Hide and Chic, ran second again in the Test, although the margin was quite a bit larger Saturday.
In the Gold, part of the favored Nick Zito/Live Oak Plantation entry ridden by Gary Stevens, recovered from a staggering start with a move on the turn to finish third, three-quarters of a length behind the runner-up. Aspen Tree ran fourth.
Leave Me Alone broke well from the rail post as Hide and Chic led out of the gate, dueled briefly with Maddalena and John Velazquez for the early lead, then took over. She completed the opening quarter mile in :22 2/5 and the half in :45 2/5 while under constant pressure from Maddalena. But it was Maddalena who faltered due to the pace fight. Leave Me Alone pulled away from the field to lead by five lengths with a furlong to go and continued to widen under Desormeaux's urging to the wire.
"She will rate, but I thought we were very dominant with the speed that she has," said the 52-year-old Kruljac, an Arizonan who has trained in Southern California for 15 years. "My biggest concern, of course, was the 1-hole, but she keeps drawing the 1-hole and, at least sprinting, she runs very well from it. She was just a professional.
"She's just getting better and better. Kent gave her a perfect ride. We thought there might be some `rabbits' sent, but he was aware of that. She just got out there and relaxed so nicely for him. At the quarter-pole, she put them away."
Kruljac said he would likely pass on the $250,000 Ballerina Handicap (gr. I) for fillies and mares at the Test distance of seven furlongs on Aug. 28.
"This is the first horse I ever saddled at Saratoga," he said. "I kind of doubt we're going in the Ballerina. If it was a full month, I would consider it."
Desormeaux said Leave Me Alone was going easily on the front end.
"I was able to sit quietly on her until inside the quarter-pole, and then I asked her to stretch her legs and reach for the wire and she did that tenaciously," he said. "She dropped a few inches and you can tell that she really lengthened her stride. I encouraged her to give it her best – and you can see the results."
Leave Me Alone, who carried 118 pounds, won for the fifth time in seven starts in 2005 and improved her career earnings to $486,370.
Out of the Moscow Ballet mare Fablulous Ballet and purchased for $35,000 at auction in August 2003, she was bred by Old English Rancho and Quinn and Pond.
The third choice in the field of nine, which included a pair of two-horse entries, she paid $10.80, $4.40 and $3.80. Hide and Chic, ridden for the first time by Jerry Bailey returned $2.70 and $3. Her Zito-trained stablemate In the Gold was coming off a third-place finish in the Acorn (gr. I) at Belmont Park in June.
The Zito entry went off as the 13-10 favorite.
"I thought both of my fillies ran well, but no one was going to catch the winner," said Zito, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Monday morning. "Gary (Stevens) told me (In the Gold) hit the gate at the start. Obviously, that didn't bother her that much because she was able to make a solid run around the far turn. As for Hide and Chic, she was beaten again by the winner."
After Aspen Tree came Maddalena, Lady Pegasus, Pommes Frites, Acey Deucey and Sense of Style. Flying Glitter scratched.
Acey Deucey, who was coming off a victory in the six-furlong Prioress (gr. I) at Belmont Park, carried top weight of 122 pounds.